Basic ingredients for one of the world's most beloved cuisines
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Ancho chiles: When fresh poblano chiles are dried, they'recalled anchos. Mildly spicy, like the fresh counterpart, anchosdevelop a rich sweetness that is perfect for marinades or asimmering pot of chili.

Cilantro: This definitively Mexican herb is used only whenfresh; it loses all flavor when dried. It provides an explosivesprinkle over lots of street foods, mostly as a component of salsaand guacamole. Store it wrapped in barely damp paper towels in aplastic bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator.

Dried guajillo chile: These smooth-skinned, brick-orcranberry-red chiles are a little spicier than anchos, and notnearly as sweet. They have a tangy brightness that leads many cooksto powder them over fresh fruit and vegetables, or to pair themwith anchos in stews and soups.

Jicama: This long-lasting root vegetable is the color of apotato, and not much bigger. Peel, then eat raw for a slightlysweet, juicy crunch--perfect in slaws and chicken salad. Or eat itas Mexicans do, simply as a snack.

Masa harina: Corn tortillas are made from dried grain(field) corn cooked with mineral lime then ground into a pastecalled "masa." Several decades ago, a method was discovered todehydrate and powder the perishable masa; the result became knownas masa harina, or masa flour.
Poblano chiles: These mildly spicy, dark green fresh chilesare the size of a small bell pepper, but with a tapered point. Theskin is tougher than a bell pepper, with more compact flesh, andmore concentrated and complex flavor.

Queso anejo: This hard, aged cheese, made from cow's milk,adds a salty tang to whatever it touches. Dishes that always get adusting of grated queso anejo, such as enchiladas, grilled corn onthe cob, and street snacks made from corn masa, would be nakedwithout it, like pasta without Romano or Parmesan.

Serrano chiles: These bullet-shaped, hot, green chiles areabout 2 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. They have a punchyflavor that is heaven to green chile lovers--much less sweet than ajalapeno.